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D.C. United vs. Nats TV Ratings

(2007 file photo by Jonathan Newton.)

UPDATE: Those of you who accused me of making false comparisons and fanning false flames are correct. Apologies. D.C. United has nothing to do with the Nats, and their ratings are very hard--maybe impossible--to compare, with different game times, attendance issues, home dates, etc. The more interesting comparison is between the Nats and other MLB teams, but I just thought it was curious to see an MLS team out-rating an MLB team, which wouldn't happen anywhere else.

The D.C. sports world is crying out for one definitive post on the TV ratings garnered by every last local franchise, but in the meantime, mull this one over.

As mentioned earlier today, based on SportsBusiness Journal's analysis of Nielsen Media Research numbers, the Nats are drawing an average rating of 0.39 in the Washington Designated Market Area, which consists of approximately 2.3 million households. A 0.39 rating corresponds to about 9,000 households.

For one comparison--with a sport whose season begins and ends at virtually the same time--D.C. United is thus far drawing a 0.5 rating for its eight regular-season MLS games that have been shown live on Comcast SportsNet. That doesn't count the taped replays CSN shows, nor does it account for D.C. United games on any of the ESPN/ABC family of stations. The 0.5 rating corresponds to approximately 11,500 local households.

Which means that, at the season's midway point for both franchises, D.C. United is outdrawing the Nats on TV. In at least one other measure (blog hits on, the soccer franchise would appear to have a core fan base that's either larger, more passionate or more desperate for information than that of the Nats. (Or, to be fair, that has many fewer sources of online news and that thus must rely exclusively on the Soccer Insider.)

Baseball, as some have pointed out, isn't the greatest television product and is a wonderful radio sport, so just focusing on TV ratings gives an incomplete picture. And the Nats draw exponentially far more live fans, both on a per-game and, more notably, on a per-season basis, with significantly more home dates. That number isn't even close.

Still, is it fair to ask whether D.C. United has a larger group of passionately invested core supporters than do the Nats? And, regardless of the realities in other markets, whether the term "Big Four professional sports leagues" should be permanently retired in D.C.? And whether the D.C. politicians who found a way to make a baseball stadium work shouldn't be at least curious about the fact that more people are watching the local MLS team than the local MLB team?

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 7, 2008; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , Nats  
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